Know How / Soils

Expert advice on how to assess soil health and improve it to raise crop yields. Find out when to test your soil and how to interpret the test results. Improve the structure of your soil by encouraging earthworms, adding organic matter, improving drainage and growing cover crops.

Must reads

How to measure earth worms

Find out why and how to measure earthworms to help maintain healthy soils for arable and livestock crops. Jackie Stroud of Wormscience, an agricultural soil scientist based at Rothamsted Research, takes you through the steps, explaining types of the worms and where they are found in the soil layers.

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Practical advice

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CROP MANAGEMENT

Rotation planning: How should you plan for future changes?

Rotation planning for the next few years should start with the acknowledgement that nothing is cast in stone anymore, say agronomists and consultants. After two consecutive wet autumns and dry…

BUSINESS MANAGEMENT

How to plant the right tree in the right place on your farm

Many factors influence the best location for planting a new woodland, not least the reasons for wanting to do so in the first place. These could include offering an alternative…

SOILS

Why soil measurement is a key challenge for carbon farming

Establishing a trusted measurement method is going to be critical if carbon markets are to take off for arable farmers, enabling them to earn money in return for capturing and…

CROP MANAGEMENT

Soil fungi can help improve the health of crops

Mycorrhizal fungi are beneficial organisms that have a symbiotic relationship with plants, growing in association with their roots and helping them to thrive. A key component of any balanced farming…

SOILS

7 steps to adopt a biological-based system on arable farms

Most growers would like to move to a less chemical-dependent future, but while the theory sounds good, the practicalities are much more challenging. Regenerative agricultural consultant and farmer Ben Taylor-Davies,…

NUTRITION AND FERTILISER

Step-by-step guide for a tailored approach to crop nutrition

Taking a tailored approach to nutrition can help cereal growers achieve a more sustainable crop performance, through better plant health and resilience. In recent years, cereal yields have plateaued and…

Case studies

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SOILS

Is undersowing cereal crops with clover the next big thing?

Growing a permanent clover understory beneath cash crops known as a "living mulch" could provide an effective way to control weeds, fix nitrogen and boost farm productivity. In a field…

SOILS

Soil health key to premium crop grower's sustainability goals

Growing premium crops for local markets is helping Fife farmer Alan Steven optimise margins at Hillhead Farm, Kingsbarns, St Andrews. “Our location means haulage is a significant factor,” says Mr…

SOILS

5 key changes a farmer made in move to regenerative farming

Learning from mistakes and adapting plans are key parts of the transition towards a regenerative approach, with much of the knowledge exchange for this farming system still relatively new. Fortunately…

DRILLING

How farmer grows wheat within a herbal ley

Drilling crops into a permanent living mulch is the holy grail for organic growers and a system developed in the south-west of France now gaining ground in the UK. Andy…

ESTABLISHMENT

How to grow potatoes using minimal tillage

Growing potatoes with excellent taste characteristics was the starting point for Jeroen Klompe’s eight-year journey to improve his soil, and his management of it within a potato rotation. Farming 368ha…

SOILS

How two growers are using regenerative ag to protect water

Pressure to reverse excessive nitrate leaching into both the Wessex Water borehole and wider Poole Harbour catchments has led Dorset farmer John Hawkins to radically reshape his farm in the…

Insights

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BUSINESS

Silvopasture: What it is and how it benefits livestock

Tree planting can make a valuable contribution to a range of public goods, such as carbon sequestration, improved soil health, increased biodiversity, water quality and flood mitigation, all of which…

ARABLE

How the new Arable Soils Standard could help fill the BPS gap

Early indications based on figures announced by Defra in early July suggest that while the new Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) could fill the BPS shortfall for some farmers, large farms…

ARABLE

Regen farming data show variable costs cut by 18%

Latest results from the Groundswell benchmarking group show that everything is lower in a regenerative agriculture system, except for the all-important net margin. Variable costs are 18% lower, while labour…

SOILS

6 companies offering carbon-based payments to arable farmers

From government-backed schemes to voluntary private markets, there has been an explosion of interest in developing carbon and additional ecosystem service credits that could provide a new income stream for…

SOILS

How new carbon offset scheme for regenerative ag works

The first UK-certified soil carbon offsetting scheme is available to farmers who use regenerative agriculture practices, offering them a commercial opportunity worth up to £100/ha from sequestering carbon in their…

SOILS

Will soil carbon be the next big crop for growers?

It feels like a perfect storm: the urgency of climate change, the global surge in interest in regenerative agricultural practices and the need for new income streams. They are all…

SOILS

How the UK's first soil carbon mapping service works

The UK’s first carbon mapping service, capable of providing an accurate baseline measure of soil carbon levels, is now available to farmers. The technology, known as Terramap Carbon, will gauge…

SOILS

Why regular liming can raise profits by up to £436/ha/year

A new study has highlighted the benefit of a long-term liming strategy in arable rotations, with regular applications shown to significantly increase farm profitability. Agricultural soils become acidic naturally and…

Latest soils news

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SOILS

Cereals 2021: Standard carbon footprinting tool by 2023

A carbon footprinting tool based on a common, UK industry-wide approach is being developed by the AHDB and Defra and should be ready by the start of 2023, it was…

SOILS

Cereals 2021: Defra pledges 30% uplift in soil health payments

Support payments for farmers who improve soil health will be some 30% higher under the government's new environmental scheme for England, Defra has pledged. But farmers are being warned that…

NEWS

2021 Soil Farmer of the Year award winners announced

Two farmers who put soil health at the centre of their farming systems have been named as joint winners of the 2021 Soil Farmer of the Year award. Kent arable…

NEWS

'Only 60 years of harvests left' claim is a myth, says study

Claims that the world may only have 60 harvests left because of poor soil management are “overblown” and “nonsensical”, according to new research from Oxford University. The United Nations’ Food…

Video

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POTATOES

Video: How a US potato grower is slashing pesticide use

Growing potatoes on a commercial scale with virtually zero synthetic inputs would seem impossible, but this is exactly what one US farmers has achieved using what he calls “biotic farming”,…

DRILLING

Video: High-pressure water tech aids direct drilling success

Replacing drill coulters with a high-pressure jet to open up the soil will not only improve germination, its inventors believe it can aid rooting by cracking compaction and aerating soils.…

SOILS

Drainage contractor splashes £400k on state-of-the-art plough

Mastenbroek has built its first UK-bound trenchless drainage plough in more than thirty years for Warwickshire-based Farm Services, which is keen to satisfy a resurgent number of farmers requesting field-scale…

SUGAR BEET

Video: Sugar beet drilling starts as growers play catch-up

Sugar beet drilling is racing ahead between the rain showers on light land with one Suffolk Brecklands estate looking to catch up from its latest start in more than a…